Shorebirds, two kinds

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Two Willets walking on a beach, St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park.

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Sanderlings too.

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Audubon Field Guide Sanderling

This is the little sandpiper that runs up and down the beach “like a clockwork toy,” chasing the receding waves. Plumper and more active than most small sandpipers, and quite pale at most times of year, a good match for dry sand. Sanderlings nest only in limited areas of the far north, but during migration and winter they are familiar sights on coastal beaches all over the world.

Decorating with birds

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Pelicans are everywhere.

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And now in my house too.

Chainsaw art purchased at Jammin’ Jensen, a street festival of arts and music held every Thursday night in downtown Jensen Beach.

Lawn ornaments

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White Ibis in Sewall’s Point this morning. My husband and I were out for a ride. I had my camera in the basket of my beach bike.

A wading bird of the deep South, the striking White Ibis is frequently seen on lawns looking for large insects as well as probing for prey along the shoreline.

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White Ibis poking around.

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Wikipedia: A field study late in the Florida nesting season revealed that on an average day, adult American white ibis spent 10.25 hours looking for food, 0.75 hours flying, 13 hours resting, roosting, and attending to their nests.

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They are pretty calm around people.

Walking with egret

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Observe and learn from the Great Egret.

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On a windy day, avoid open areas at water’s edge and take a walk along the well-vegetated roads of Sewall’s Point.

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Again today, and for the past several days, we have winds sustained at 20 mph and gusting to 25 or 30. It really musses one’s hair and feathers.

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What a pretty feather-butt.

The pristinely white Great Egret gets even more dressed up for the breeding season. A patch of skin on its face turns neon green, and long plumes grow from its back. Called aigrettes, those plumes were the bane of egrets in the late nineteenth century, when such adornments were prized for ladies’ hats.

Much nicer to have a moment or two with the living bird. A few photos, to preserve and share, will be the feather in my cap.

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We walked next to each other for a minute or two, on River Road.

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Then the egret turned to walk into the woods on a vacant lot with waterfront along the St. Lucie River.

On this western side of Sewall’s Point is a ridge of high land, a “backbone” extending the length of the peninsula. The natural vegetation here is tropical hardwood hammock.

Tropical hardwood hammocks are closed canopy forests, dominated by a diverse assemblage of evergreen and semi-deciduous tree and shrub species, mostly of West Indian origin.

And…

Tropical hardwood hammocks are found nearly throughout the southern half of South Florida, with large concentrations in Dade County on the Miami Rock Ridge, in Dade and Monroe counties in the Florida Keys and along the northern shores of Florida Bay, and in the Pinecrest region of the Big Cypress Swamp. Analogous communities are also found in the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles (Robertson 1955). Most maritime hammocks on barrier islands in South Florida are similar to this community. Large areas of tropical hardwood hammocks are still found in Everglades NP and Biscayne NP in Dade County, throughout the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and in Big Cypress National Preserve in Collier County. Tropical hardwood hammocks also persist in small preserves along the Atlantic coastal strip from Dade County north to Martin County.

Martin County, that’s us.

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Good-bye, bird. Thank you for walking with me.

Eagle above

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That distant, tiny dot above the tree horizon is something special.

Friday afternoon I was walking here on River Road in Sewall’s Point, just a few blocks from home, when I heard an Osprey screaming. It flew over my head, chased by a slightly larger bird.

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They circled back around and passed over again, Osprey in the lead, distinctive black and white bird on its tail.

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Bald Eagle!

My guess is that the Osprey had a nest with chicks. I think they stayed safe.

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I was super-excited to see a Bald Eagle. I wished there were other people around too I could yell and point at the sky, “Bald Eagle!”

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But at least I had my camera so I could point and shoot and share it later.

What a bold, beautiful bird.

Ruddy turnstone Sunday

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Ruddy Turnstone at Bob Graham Beach last Sunday.

We were parked in our new Tommy Bahama “Relax” backpack beach chairs with built in cooling pockets and cup holders for Sunday brunch beverages and a flock of these little guys were coming quite close, hoping for crumbs from our fresh, hot Cuban sandwiches from the nearby Island Pantry.

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A shorebird that looks almost like a calico cat, the Ruddy Turnstone‘s orange legs and uniquely patterned black-and-white head and chest make them easy to pick out of a crowd. These long-distance migrants breed in the arctic tundra, but spend the off seasons on rocky shorelines and sandy beaches on both North American coasts (as well as South America, Eurasia, Africa, and Australia). They use their stout, slightly upturned bill to flip debris on the beach to uncover insects and small crustaceans.

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Chubster.

For shorebirds like the Ruddy Turnstone, getting fat is critical. Unlike humans, which use carbohydrates as fuel, birds use fat to power their migrations. Birds that don’t get fat enough before they depart often leave later and some may not even make it to the breeding or wintering grounds.

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It was a very windy day. Some fishermen battled the elements.

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There were some Sanderlings around too, as there often are with Ruddy Turnstones.

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A couple of kite surfers were fun to watch just off the beach.

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Wind and water.

Raptors at TCWC

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Members of Audubon of Martin County visited the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center to learn about raptors yesterday, out in the wilds of Palm City, Florida.

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Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk.

Injured birds and other animals are rehabilitated and released, when possible.

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Crested Caracara is a “falconized vulture,” we learned, and a clever bird.

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Pelicans had their own swimming pool.

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Gracie the Bald Eagle has lived at the center for many years. She is missing part of a wing and will never fly. She fell or was pushed from her nest when she was barely a fledgling and a local rancher found her.

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This falcon is probably a hybrid between a Peregrine and a Tundra Falcon and was probably being used for unofficial falconry when rescued from someone’s garage, according to center director Tim Brown.

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This bird does not seem to mind being handled and seems tuned in to Tim.

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Nice tattoo. I think he likes raptors.

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Beautiful feathers.

The visit was a good chance to get close to some amazing birds, though a little sad too to see them tethered or caged instead of flying free and healthy.

“Most of the birds are here because they got a little too close to humans,” said Tim, “so we think it’s right for humans to try to help them.”

Winter bird

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Forget the palms. Palm Warblers like live oaks and other deciduous trees. Or being down near the ground hunting for bugs and berries.

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The Florida Gardener’s Guide (which I borrowed from our excellent local library) waxed poetic about these trees that are such an important part of the neighborhood.

A Southern Live Oak may live for 300 or more years. Its massive branches can stretch horizontally, if allowed, so that the canopy is wider than the tree is tall. Its furrowed bark and leathery leaves support millions of living creatures, smaller than we can see, and a good many large enough for us to discern: Lichens, Mosses, Liverworts, a couple of squirrel nests, gnats, aphids, hair-streak larvae, germinating seeds of Bromeliads, mats of Resurrection Fern and Thick Fern, an ant highway, and a well-worn path of raccoons that teeter from topmost branches and watch the goings on below. A whole world lives in this one organism, and on, around, and under it, while it, too, thickens, stretches, and lengthens through complex metabolic activities.

It pulls water from the ground at the rate of hundreds of gallons a day, and it takes in carbon dioxide from the air and releases oxygen. The mycorrhizae attached to its roots are probably connected to other trees around it, like the invisible strings of matter in the universe, linking and interacting with other trees.

Wow!

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Spotted this little Palm Warbler down low where I could see it, in a neighbor’s yard on Ridgeview Road.

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Zoomed in.

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From the Florida Eco Travel Guide

Palm warblers are common winter residents in Florida, arriving in late September and staying on until April. You will see these small, active birds along forest edges, in open woods, and disturbed areas, including farmlands and marshes. They feed mostly on insects, but occasionally eat berries. Palm warblers are easy to recognize because they continually bob their tails.

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Getting to know my neighbors!